Let’s Talk about Swag* Baby

One of the things that you hear over and over when you’re researching whether to attend a BlogHer conference is that the amount of swag is absolutely insane.

Before the conference, half the people are saying that they’re bringing an extra suitcase for all the awesome free stuff they’re going to be hauling home and the other half are talking about how much they just detest swag and won’t be taking any of the crap with them.

My swag

I’m obviously in the “I love free stuff” camp!

However, I’ve also been working hard to stick to a goal of not having a bunch of useless junk around my house. I’m trying to keep Jack’s clothes and toys under control so that we only have what we need, instead of being buried alive.

At BlogHer, I approached each swag gift and really thought about whether it would be useful to me and/or something that my awesome Pocketful of Joules readers would want to hear about. I feel like I did pretty darn well and came home with just one stuffed bag.

I’m a fairly new blogger compared to a lot of the superstars at the event, so I wasn’t invited to any of the sponsored parties with special swag. Everything I received was in the main exhibit halls, accessible by all BlogHer attendees. I’m not going to list every single piece of swag I received, because that would just be a really long list of items you don’t care about. However, I am going to talk about my Top 5 items from the conference.

My Top 6 Swag Items from BlogHer 12:

Trojan Tri-Phoria
Okay, let’s just let the elephant in the room honk his trunk for a moment. If you’ve heard anything about this year’s swag bag you’ve heard about Trojan’s giveaway. Let me say that they were absolutely BRILLIANT to bring their new product, the Tri-Phoria (it’s a fancy vibe… um, I mean “intimate massager”) to the conference. With an audience of 5,000 women at the event (and a few guys), EVERYONE knew what Trojan was giving away within minutes. It hit Twitter immediately. In fact, as attendees were walking away from their booth (some embarrassed with a slightly dazed look on their face) there was a murmur of “oh my gosh, Trojan just handed me a toy” heard throughout the exhibit hall. Closely followed by the pounding feet sound of woman rushing over to the booth. Bravo Trojan – you couldn’t have done better advertising if you had paid for a Super Bowl commercial!

RetailMeNot Gift Card
Have you heard of RetailMeNot? It’s a site that has a ton of coupon and promo codes for you to use. I use them every time I’m placing an online order as a quick way to check and see if I can get a little extra money off of my order. Well, RetailMeNot had one of those snazzy spinning wheels of prizes – which I LOVE, but never win anything good. Well, in exchange for a tweet using their hashtag you were able to earn a spin of their wheel. So, one quick tweet later (I tweeted, “Yay, I love spinning wheels of fun!”) and I spun the prize wheel…. and won a $250 VISA gift card! They were super smart and branded the gift card with their logo and website so that I think of them every time I use it. I’m a WINNER!

My Zamzee

Zamzee Activity Meter
Okay, this is one of the items that I’m pretty darn excited about. Zamzee’s Activity Meter is like a pedometer on crack. It not only measures your steps, but the intensity of the activity. You can then plug the meter into your computer and track your progress online. You earn “Pointz” for various activities and save up for prizes, like gift cards! Since I’m starting my diet/exercise program, I’m really looking forward to using this little guy to help me stay motivated. The Zamzee folks were nice enough to give me an Activity Meter for myself, as well as one for a reader giveaway – so I’ll be sharing more about my experience and also launching a contest so you can win one too.

Rita Hazan Foaming Color Gloss
You may not know this about me, but I LOVE playing with new beauty products, especially ones for my hair! I had not heard of the Rita Hazen brand before I was given a sample of their Foaming Color Gloss. However, the lady at the booth was super nice (with great hair), so I was excited to try it out. I have only used it a couple times, so I don’t feel like I can write a full review yet, but I’ll keep you posted. Mostly, I’m impressed that they came to a conference with a full-sized product for ladies to take home. So much better than using a product once and trying to justify the cost to purchase it on your own!

Arm & Hammer Whitening Booster
Kudos also go to Arm & Hammer who brought their “Whitening Booster” to BlogHer. Many people don’t like the whitening strips, so the company came up with a booster gel that you use on top of your toothpaste which is “easier to use, less expensive and whitens your teeth in just one week.” I had never heard of this product, but now that it’s in my medicine cabinet I’m using it twice a day. Hopefully in the next pictures I post of me I will have beautifully white teeth! Had the company not brought that product to the BlogHer conference, I wouldn’t have even known about it. So good job marketing guys & gals!

My blingy tumbnail

Kiss Nail Press Stickers
I suck at painting my fingernails. It’s really hard for me to paint by using that teensy little brush in my non-dominant hand. I also get all twitchy when my nail polish chips and usually end up cleaning it all off my fingers within a day or so.  I’ve seen the new stick-on nail polishes and have actually picked them up many times… only to put them back down because of their price. The Kiss company gave out gift bags to anyone who completed their survey at the event, which contained their Nail Press stickers. Now, I wouldn’t have chosen this particular design on my own but I did try out one sticker on my thumbnail and lived with it for a few days. Honestly, it impressed me enough that I would go out and buy a set in a more normal design. So, it looks like their product placement worked on me!

As careful as I was with my swag choosing, I did end up with some random crap. Before I left NYC, I packed it up and took it to the Swag Recycling Room so other people could have a crack at the stuff I didn’t want. Such a great idea!

I only ended up with a few things in my “Why did I bother to lug this stuff home pile”: a hot pocket toy (okay, I think this is pretty dumb but my baby and/or dog will probably enjoy playing with it), chocolate organic tea (I hate tea with a white hot passion and the chocolate flavor isn’t fooling anybody), a sheet of zebra-striped duck tape, a squishy sample of technogel (with no purpose at all) and….a picture of me with toilet paper. Because everyone needs a print of them using TP as a boa around their neck, right?

Do you like my toilet paper boa?

All in all, I’m super happy with my swag-o-licous-ness and can’t wait to start using the products. After using the stuff for a little while, I’m planning to put up a review about the Zamzee Activity Meter and the Rita Hazen Foaming Color Gloss. Please note though: if I give a positive review for something it’s because I’ve actually used it and really like it. I’m not going to sell out and stick up a blog post about something I don’t like!

Were you at the BlogHer conference? If so, what was your favorite swag ?

 

*Definition of Swag: free stuff and giveaways offered by vendors at trade shows to encourage attendees to visit their booth (defined by webopedia.com. I’m not talking about swag, as in swagger – the appearance of the way someone presents themselves (ex. Yo, you got some killer swag dude). I’m also not talking about the Urban Dictionary’s definition of swag: Secretly We Are Gay.  I like boys, my husband especially (when he’s not hogging the covers).

Disclaimer: Although I wrote about my top 6 items, none of the companies has given me any compensation or incentive for writing about them or including links to their websites (which I did for your convenience only).

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Was BlogHer Worth It?

I was looking forward to going to the BlogHer conference in NYC so much that it rivaled the wait for Christmas. And I really, really LOVE Christmas.

After a month or so of mental build up and a few days of intensive tweeting, the conference went by in a three-day whirlwind. In a way it felt like it took forever and at the same time I feel like I’ve been pummeled from head to toe with an angry swag bag.

Since I had never been to a blog conference before, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I was really hoping to walk away from the event with a bunch of new contacts, a notebook of ideas to implement and a couple new friends.

So, did I do that?
Here’s the breakdown:

In the Good Pile

  • I have 17 pages of handwritten notes to go through. The plan is to create a list of Action Items and then slowly chip away at each task.
  • I have 31 business cards from the conference – a mix of fellow bloggers and possible sponsors. I need to click around on each contact’s links. Bloggers I like will go on a frequent read list and sponsors I like will go on a ‘need to email’ list so I can follow up with them.
  • I was offered a few guest posting and sponsorship opportunities from a few different brands – a couple of them fit fantastically with Pocketful of Joules and I’ll definitely be following up on them. In one case I need to devise a plan to use the product, blog about it and also create a giveaway for my awesome readers so that you can receive the product for free!
  • I was able to meet up with bloggers/twitter friends that I only knew in the online world and had a great time getting to know them in real life. Three of my total favorites that I was able to hang out with were: Lauren from Filing Jointly, Diana (who’s business card I can’t find right now but I really liked her) and Marcella, the Social Media Manager for Citrus Lane (as you know I’m kind of obsessed with Citrus Lane and their monthly box program)!

In the Bad Pile

  • This year’s BlogHer had over 5,000 people signed up to attend. It’s great that the conference is popular, but there were so many bloggers at the event that I found it difficult to make one-on-one connections with people. So many times I’d run into someone, talk to them a bit and then never see them again. As much as I wanted to leave with a few new best buds, it was really hard to break through the crowd to find them.
  • There are always a couple bad seeds out there. Two bloggers I met were total asshats and I’ve already thrown away their business cards so I don’t make the mistake of following up with them.
  • Apparently some bloggers were sponsored by multiple brands that paid for them to attend the conference. Which is totally fine. But I was a bit disgusted and turned off by some of their blatant shilling of their brands – both in person and on twitter. It’s cool to support and thank a brand or two, but to have a dozen different brands sponsoring all areas of your trip and wardrobe and to have to tweet/talk about them nonstop is just a bit too much for me. At least with television infomercials I can fast forward with my tivo…
  • On my train ride home I totally misheard the conductor (the speaker was turned way down low…) and got off at the stop BEFORE my stop. So instead of getting home around 10:45, I didn’t walk in the door of my house until almost midnight. BOO!
Yes, I played with Lauren’s tentacles and it was everything I thought it would be.

Random Bits O’ Fun:

  • Celebrities I saw: Martha Stewart, Katie Couric (both interviewed at BlogHer), and Matthew Broderick (on the street outside of his latest Broadway play).
  • Most embarrassing: When I blurted out to my new friend, Diana, “PLEASE tell me your ring is fake” upon seeing her engagement ring. It wasn’t. It was also a crapload of carets and super sparkly. Absolute mortification.
  • I’ve still got it: The secret to walking around NYC without being hassled is that you need to put on your “Stankface” before you leave your hotel. Basically, you don’t make eye contact with anyone, you don’t look up at the buildings and go “Oooooh, look how tall” and you walk like you’re pounding the runway on America’s Next Top Model. I pretty much rock at this and not one random person tried to mess with me. Meow.
  • Lauren from Filing Jointly totally let me play with her tentacles. And no, that’s not a euphemism for anything naughty.
  • I brought home an absolute ton of swag. In fact, I’ll be writing a whole blog post on JUST the swag I got.
  • This trip was my very first time being away from my (almost) 6 month old since he came home from the hospital and I totally did not cry once. I missed him and my husband though and was happy to come home on Sunday. Even though Jack learned this terrible horror movie kind of scream that scares the crap out of me and the dog.*

Random Pictures from my BlogHer weekend:

The view from my room — totally wish it was New Years so I could see the ball drop!
My brand-spanking-new blog business cards!
With another blogger (not even sure we exchanged names) at the Stella and Dot booth. Obviously I’m a pretty, pretty princess.
Lauren from Filing Jointly and Me — we didn’t get around to hair braiding and she’s afraid of pillow fights. However, she did bring me an awesome gift for letting her crash with me!
Oooh, look a fake fire and smores! I’m not sure if this was before or after I gaped at her ring.
Yeah, that’s me with the Jimmy Dean Sun. Because I’m totally THAT cool!

All in all, I arrived in NYC on Thursday with an excitement level of a 4 year old hyped up on sugar and left feeling vaguely overwhelmed and absolutely exhausted.

So, the question is… Was it Worth it?
Absolutely.

My main reason for attending the conference was to learn more about professional blogging. I’m going to be launching a blog at my day job in higher education and wanted to be sure I do it with as few kinks as possible.

My secondary reason for attending BlogHer was so that I can learn more about personal blogging. After stumbling through with Pocketful of Joules for the past 1 ½ years, I really want to focus on improving and growing my blog. I learned a lot at the conference and have a hugely intimidating list of ideas that I can implement as soon as I have the energy, time and money to do so.

All in all, I’m feeling overwhelmed yet inspired. Which I’m going to count as a win for BlogHer!

*Honestly, this new scream sounds like he’s a cross between a possessed demon child and someone in true terror running from an ax welding mad man. It’s horrible!

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Posting from the Train – On My Way to BlogHer!

Oh my god. It’s actually happening – I’m on my way to BlogHer 2012 in NYC!

I packed up my little orange suitcase last night (and only ended up with three pairs of shoes, yay me!) and did my last minute stuff this morning. Jack got dropped off at my parent’s house on my way up the road, and I pretty much floated on caffeine and adrenaline all the way to the train station.

Now I have to try and sit still for the next three hours. Um, not sure how that’s going to go. But there is free wifi, so I think I’ll be doing a lot of internet surfing and stalking the #blogher12 hashtag on twitter while counting down the minutes it takes to get my butt to New York’s Penn Station.

Another blogger/tweeter said it best when she sarcastically compared the ladies tweeting about BlogHer to girls going to summer camp. I know she was trying to be a bit bitchy, but that is absolutely how I’m feeling. It’s my chance to get away from my day-to-day life and converge on one of the coolest cities in the world with over 4,000 ladies like me!

The scariest thing to me is that I’m entering this unknown world all by myself. I haven’t brought a friend with me and I don’t know a single person at the conference. That is freaking me out in a huge way.

Actually, I do KIND OF know someone who will be there, but I’ve never actually met her in person. Due to a series of random events, fellow blogger Lauren from Filing Jointly and I will be meeting up at the conference and we’re totally having a freaking SLEEPOVER!

She needed a place to stay. I had an extra bed in my room and thought she was funny. So it was apparently a match made in blogger heaven.

So now it really DOES feel like summer camp. I’m wondering if she’s down for pillow fights, braiding hair and doing each other’s nails…? Either way, I’m pretty much sure we’re going to hit it off since she passed the ax murderer test.*

The funny thing is that I remember having a conversation with my freshman year roommate from college about the Stranger Danger of meeting up with someone from the internet.

Remember the late 90’s where people met in chat rooms? And not the “cool” AOL chat rooms, those really stupid ones you got to from your college’s computer lab (I think it might have been called Intranet or something?). Well my roommate at the time fell in loooooove with this guy she met online. He was from Canada and was supposedly a “little older” and in a band.  This was before the REAL internet really hit big, so she couldn’t google or facebook his ass. She ended up inviting him to our college (I put my foot down when she wanted to have him sleep in our room) and of course he ended up being old, fat, short and bald. Oh and lame. Super, super lame.

Since I can deduce by reading her blog that Lauren is NOT super lame, I think I’m good to go. I am a bit concerned about her bringing Tiny Dancer though… (Lauren, if you bring him please for the love of all that is bloggy, don’t hide him in my bed! I WILL scream like a girl and may have a heart attack and/or pee myself).

For anyone else coming to BlogHer, if you see me please say hi. I’m super friendly, just kind of shy about taking the first step to talking to someone new. Oh, and total bonus points for hugs and high 5’s!

 

*The ax murderer test is pretty much me asking, “Hey, are you an ax murderer?” and her responding with, “lol. No”. So see, she totally passed and is therefore my new BBFF (Blogger Best Friend Forever).

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